Healthcare cost key to U.S. budget problems: White House

WASHINGTON Mon May 11, 2009 2:11pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rising healthcare costs are the single biggest factor behind high U.S. budget deficits and President Barack Obama's moves to limit cost growth could close future gaps, White House budget director Peter Orszag said on Monday.

"The single most important thing we could do to address our long term fiscal problem is to address the growth rate of healthcare costs," Orszag told Reuters television in an interview.

The White House on Monday raised its forecast for this year's budget deficit by $89 billion, while at the same time unveiling a plan with healthcare industry groups to save about $2 trillion in cost growth in the next 10 years.

"If that were achieved you would virtually eliminate the long term fiscal gap because so much of that long term fiscal problem comes from Medicare and Medicaid (the health programs for the elderly and the poor)," Orszag said.

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